Choosing a combat art form best suited to your individual and unique characteristics can be more challenging than you think. Krav Maga and MMA are two of the most popular fighting styles. But make no mistake, these two concepts differ a lot from one another.

When it comes to MMA and Krav Maga, the best style for you depends on your goals. Krav Maga is a rule-free self-defense style built for survival and mainly used in street fighting. MMA is a combative sport used for fitness held in a controlled environment. 

In this article, I’ll take you through both disciplines, noting their respective characteristics and techniques. This information will help you draw a comparison between the two, understanding their similarities and differences better. By the end of this read, you’ll be able to decide which option would suit you better.

What Is Krav Maga?

Krav Maga in itself doesn’t technically qualify as a combat sport, nor a martial art. It’s simply a fighting style designed for self-defense and survival. 

Imi Lichtenfeld, an Israeli martial artist, founded the discipline on the streets of Czechoslovakia in the late 1930s. Its purpose was mainly to help defend the Jewish population in the country from fascists taking over central Europe. The Israeli Armed forces later further developed it.  

Krav Maga’s enthusiasts consider it to be one of the most useful fighting styles. It replicates real-life situations better than sports held in safe and controlled environments.

Having said that, when it comes to its technique, Krav Maga is an amalgamation of many different martial arts forms. This concoction makes it a unique and standalone discipline. It can’t be fairly compared to any of the sources from which it took inspiration.

Krav Maga’s style takes inspiration from sports like aikido, boxing, wrestling, judo, and karate. The specific combination of techniques makes a difference in the fighters’ size irrelevant. This means that, unlike boxing, there are no weight classes in Krav Maga

Instead, it’s helpful to people of any size in giving them a level ground on which to fight.

The discipline employs a close-contact methodology, given that it aims to serve as a defense mechanism in war and combat. This aspect makes it ideal when you’re trying to take down an opponent in close proximity with you.

Krav Maga takes a mainly defensive approach to fighting, as it aims to serve as a means to survive. That said, along with escaping and disarming, you’ll also learn more offensive methods. When learning the style, these methods often include takedowns and striking.

Krav Maga Principles

Krav Maga is mainly known for its approach, which encourages its fighters to use as much physical aggression as possible. Physical violence isn’t encouraged. However, when it’s inevitable, the discipline encourages a no-rules approach designed to cause as much damage as possible to your opponent.

Krav Maga combines defense and offense tactics used to bring serious injuries or death upon an opponent. Some of the main principles in this fighting style are:

  • Use the most physical force and aggression as quickly as possible.
  • Don’t stop the fight until the opponent is unable to fight, move, or otherwise incapacitated.
  • No object or weapon is off-limits.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Attack and defend simultaneously.
  • Target the enemy’s most vulnerable spots, such as the throat, eyes, and groin.
  • Keep your moves simple and effective.

In short, this technique takes an eat-or-be-eaten approach. It encourages fighters to give their all in defeating their opponent as aggressively as possible, always when violence is inevitable. Keeping a mental note of your surroundings is also a critical component of Krav Maga. Doing this may provide many points of advantage, either in escaping or winning a fight.

When talking about aggression in this fighting style, it shouldn’t be confused with anger. The latter actually diminishes your chances of winning a confrontation, contrary to the former. 

Aggression in this context means the intensity of the force you choose to put up against your opponent. Anger is an emotion that may cloud your judgment in a situation where mental clarity is of the essence.

Krav Maga Techniques

The main techniques of Krav Maga, as said previously, need to be as effective and simple as they get. The discipline, a fighting style and not a form of art, doesn’t create beautiful and innovative moves. Instead, it focuses on giving the most straightforward and functional defense and offense styles a category of their own.

There are no actual rules in this type of fighting style. This means that the possible range of techniques you can use for winning a fight can be extensive. 

When practicing this discipline, there are several significant moves and concepts which have added importance. These moves are the quickest and most effective ways to cause damage to your opponent. These are the main techniques around which Krav Maga revolves:

  • Punches
  • Kicks 
  • Knee strikes
  • Grappling
  • Escapes from chokes and holds
  • Throws
  • Defenses against grappling, kicks, weapons, bear hugs, chokes, and headlocks
  • Ground fighting
  • Falling techniques

What Is MMA?

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is one of the most effective combative sports. It incorporates elements from several other fighting styles, such as karate, judo, and kung-fu. It is always done in a controlled environment that doesn’t put any participants in immediate danger.

MMA Origins

Mixed Martial Arts originates from ancient Greece. It came into life as a fighting discipline in the Greek Olympics held in 648 BC. The style in itself wasn’t exactly the same as what we see today. This discipline, called Pankration, was less regulated and had more of a close-contact approach back then.

After the combative sport spread across Asia through Greek soldiers, it evolved into a form closest to what we see today. The discipline started as a competition between representatives of different martial arts and combat sports. It aimed to determine which fighting style would be more likely to yield a winner in a one-on-one fight.

While doing this, fighters started to take inspiration from all the different disciplines represented in the competition. They trained using elements from all of them to optimize their chances of winning. As a result, they created a brand new discipline that became what we know today as MMA.

MMA Nature

For this reason, MMA is a mix of takedowns and ground-fighting, taking inspiration from many different origins. Although it’s a more aggressive and vicious sport, people still use it for fitness and performance purposes. The sport isn’t an actual self-defense tactic, like Krav Maga.

The full-contact nature of the sport is bound to enhance your physical and fighting abilities. That said, it may be tough to translate the specific fighting conditions into real life.

Many agree that MMA is the discipline you choose if you’d like a more sports-based approach to martial arts. Conversely, you can’t authentically practice Krav Maga as a sport in a controlled environment.

MMA Principles

Becoming an MMA fighter is a lifestyle that requires patience, will, and, most importantly, discipline. This style of fighting is an art form that requires endless practice and hard work. However, I should note that this martial art form is still a sport. You can’t translate it into real-life situations. 

The sport will help you gain muscle, strength and improve your overall fitness. But fighting according to several rules against one opponent chosen from your weight class isn’t always replicable in reality. This is why it’s essential to understand MMA’s ground principles to decide whether it’s best suited to your goals. The principles of the sport are:

  • There are no weapons allowed.
  • Each limb has specific purposes as a tool in a fighter’s arsenal, with arms being the weakest and legs being the strongest.
  • A judge’s decision stops the match.
  • The technique is more important in winning a fight than brute physical force.
  • Specific actions and body parts (which I will explain later in the discipline’s rules) are off-limits.
  • The match is conducted within a ring, facing an opponent belonging to your weight class one-on-one.

MMA Techniques

MMA techniques, similarly to Krav Maga, take inspiration from a number of other fighting styles. These techniques include:

  • Jabs
  • Overhands
  • Striking
  • Clinching
  • Takedowns
  • Grappling
  • Tripping
  • Round kicks
  • Sprawling
  • Choking techniques

MMA Rules

Unlike Krav Maga, MMA has a specific set of rules by which every fighter must abide. These rules prevent fighters from:

  • Throwing the opponent outside the ring.
  • Attacking the eyes and throat.
  • Biting, spitting, or hair pulling.
  • Holding onto the cage.
  • Fish hooking.
  • Groin attacks.
  • Manipulation of fingers or toes.

These rules ensure the participant’s health and well-being. Any fighter using these techniques risks disqualification on the grounds of dirty fighting. 

However, what constitutes dirty fighting in a discipline like MMA may be completely fair-game in Krav Maga.

Choosing Between Krav Maga and MMA

Both disciplines include elements from various fighting styles. However, they differ heavily from one another and cater to people with different goals in mind.

Krav Maga would be the best style for those wanting to learn a form of self-defense and survival tactics. MMA would be the best style for enhancing fitness while participating in a competitive sport.

For Self-Defense

If you’re looking to learn and train as a form of self-defense, Krav Maga would be the way to go. The style’s realistic and all-in approach to fighting makes it the most translatable in dangerous real-life scenarios. Students of Krav Maga train in imperfect conditions. 

They fight outside of their weight range, and they learn to take on multiple opponents at once. Students will also train using only one hand, one leg, or blindfolded when learning the discipline.  This approach will make them better prepared in case of an injury or incapacitation mid-fight.

There’s no doubt that the closest practice you can have to an actual street fight is Krav Maga. So if your goal is to gain confidence in your day-to-day fighting abilities, this would be the discipline for you.

For Building Physical and Mental Strength

If you’re looking for a competitive sport to enhance your physical abilities and appearance, MMA might be better. By training in this discipline, you won’t only improve your fitness but your mindset as well.

This is because when learning MMA, you’ll need to develop a strong will, discipline, patience, and mind-body connection. You’ll also be able to learn interesting fighting techniques that might improve your real-life chances of winning a confrontation. 

Consider whether you’re looking for a fun, competitive sport to improve your strength and fitness while building a stronger mindset. If so, Mixed Martial Arts would be the best style of fighting for you.

Based On Costs

When it comes to costs, Krav Maga classes are slightly more budget-friendly. If you want to master either discipline, you will need to attend pretty pricey courses. Although both options don’t differ much cost-wise, Krav Maga tends to be slightly cheaper. The average price for a Krav Maga membership is roughly $136 per month. On the other hand, taking professional MMA classes may generally cost you about $150-$200 a month.

You also need to take into consideration that both alternatives require purchasing discipline-specific gear. This added cost will be similar no matter the discipline you choose. Either way, you should be aware of the total cost of learning a new fighting style before committing to it.


Krav Maga is the best discipline when it comes to learning real self-defense. Its no-rules, highly aggressive approach to fighting makes it an ideal form of practice in case of an actual fight. This is obvious in the style’s principles. They encourage striking your opponent’s most vulnerable points and explain that no weapons are off-limits, among other extreme approaches.

MMA is better for those looking to improve their overall fitness and mindset by engaging in a competitive sport. The discipline’s carefully curated principles, techniques, and rules make MMA a safe learning environment.